The technology press talks about how Steve Jobs had a “Reality Distortion Field” that he used to convince idiots to buy his underspecified and overpriced products. Yet even he couldn’t have achieved what has happened in London over the past fortnight. For two short weeks we have gone from being a country worries about debt, spending cuts and a double-dip recession to jumping on our seats cheering Mo Farah onto his two gold medals and Usain Bolt as he took the trebble in style, if not humility. The London olympics set out to showcase the best of British, and save perhaps for the mess with G4S, I think we have performed admirably.
Leading up to the opening ceremony a little over a fortnight ago, the naysayers seemed to be winning. Yes, the torch relay was great and all, but come the date, the London transport system would collapse into the nine circles of hell – the inner circle of course being reserved for the Jubilee line. The roads would be gridlocked, there would be missles shooting planes out of the sky while members of the army had to sleep in sewers because there was nowhere else to stick them.
Then the day arrived. As I wrote previously, Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony was a quirky take on our history that ultimately succeeded in what it set out to do, show off our best side, that being our culture and resolve as opposed to the ability to spend vast amounts of money and achieve the millimetre perfect organisation of ten thousand people like we saw in China.
Then, as the day dawned on the first day of the Olympics, none of what the naysayers said came true; the transport system coped well, the weather behaved itself and dare I say it… People had fun! The only disappointment was that the British athletes were a little slow in getting going, not that you could have told, because it didn’t matter who was competing, or where they were from, they always got a warm welcome by the assembled crowds. Not that the crowds weren’t at all partisan given the extra noise when Bradley Wiggins came along to take the gold medal in the cycling time trial.
Once the Team GB medals did start coming though, you couldn’t stop them, even if you wanted to. Every day there was a British athlete standing on top of the podium, sometimes in the most unexpected of events. By drawing upon our incredibly diverse pool of talent, Team GB managed to take an incredible 29 gold medals and 65 over all, beaten only by the USA and China.
Then, like all good things, just as quickly as it started, it was time for it to end, and for the show to move onto Rio in four years time. Rio is a good choice, they have the passion that’ll be needed to follow on successfully from London because for better or worse we have made an indelible mark on the Olympics that will be talked about for decades to come. That brings us to last night’s closing ceremony that promised a symphony of British music, and on the whole delivered as promised. The memory I’ll take away from last night however is that of Freddie Mercury. He may have been dead for over 20 years but last night via video, he, along with his Queen bandmates managed to entertain a hundred thousand people in a way that the likes of One Direction and the Spice Girls could never hope to achieve.
Of course, London 2012 isn’t really over yet – we still have the Paralympic games to come and thanks to the magic of the past two weeks, it looks to be one of the best attended Paralympic games in history. So look at it this way, we have two weeks to get our breath back, and then we can scream for Britain all over again!